The F-35 prevails
In the past, it was generally the case that attacks on U.S. weapons systems came from the Left. Numerous useful weapons, including the AGM-65 Maverick, the M-1 Abrams, the M-2 Bradley, the B-1 Lancer, the AGM-86 ALCM, and the MGM-31 Pershing, have been attacked, ridiculed, and downplayed by leftist interests. In some cases, as with the B-1, they were quite successful. (It was canceled outright by Jimmy Carter, though later revived by Ronald Reagan.)
In recent years, these campaigns have expanded to include the right. The F-22 Raptor, after a lengthy campaign, was canceled not by a left-wing ideologue, but the “conservative” Robert Gates, secretary of Defense at the time. Granted, he canceled it (in the midst of full production, the first time ever this occurred with a targeted weapon, changing the rules of the game completely) at the behest of Barack Obama, but he didn’t have to do it, and he later characterized it as “the worst decision I ever made.” (This, coming from the man who opened the doors of the Boy Scouts to the pedos, really means something.)
Attacks against the F-22, which included claims that it was failing its tests, that it was an industry fraud against the taxpayer, that it had no mission, and that it was too expensive, came from all angles, left, right, and center. All of them proved false. The Raptor today is the leading air-superiority fighter in the world and will remain so for years to come.
As soon as the F-22 was canceled, the effort shifted to the F-35 Lightning II. The exact same campaign was carried out against this aircraft, on the same exact grounds. If anything, the campaign against the F-35 was even more dishonest — critics completely ignored the fact that the fighter was intended to work as a team with the F-22, as part of a system the USAF calls the “High/Low mix,” in which agile air-superiority fighters are paired with more stolid fighter-bombers. This mix has characterized the most successful USAF fighters, including the P-51 and P-47, the F-86 and F-84, and the F-15 and F-16. Critics attempting to shoot down the F-35 ridiculed its abilities as a dogfighter, a role that it was never designed for, and which was supposed to be filled by the F-22.
Gradually, the objections collapsed one after the other. The F-35 is dysfunctional and cannot be made to work? There are 450 in operation right now. The F-35 is a failure as a fighter? Not according to enthusiastic pilots from the U.K., Norway, Italy, and Australia. The F-35 still can’t take part in operations? One fine evening a few months ago, a formation of Israeli F-35s flew over Tehran, with the mullahs having no idea they were there.
That leaves only the matter of expense. This “most expensive weapon in history” with the “largest outlay for any single military project ever” was going to break the bank no matter what else happened.
Until this week, anyway, when Forbes reported that Lockheed Martin has agreed to lower the price of all three variants by 12.5% This means that the price of the cheapest model, the USAF’s F-35A, will be $80 million per unit — less than the fourth-generation F-16 that the F-35 was built to replace.
Critics forgot — or never knew — that cutting-edge aircraft require lots of very expensive basic research. With the F-22 and F-35, this requirement was even greater than with a conventional airplane, since the designs required breakthroughs in stealth, avionics, and sensor platforms.
If an aircraft is successful, with thousands of sales, this can be amortized over the larger number of units, with a lower cost overall. This is what is happening now with the F-35. This failed to happen with the F-22.
The lesson here is that it does no one any good the imitate the Left, particularly not where this country’s defenses are concerned. Americans will die because the F-22 was canceled. The left cares nothing about this. Do we?